Nothing much to report this week after yet another weekend of inactivity. Of course this one was completely self-inflicted after the humiliating Nedbank Cup exit at the hands of KwaDukuza United a few weeks ago. Apologies for bringing that one up again, as I realise many of us are still trying to get over that particular nightmare. For many, the competition remains the most exciting and meaningful knockout tournament in South African football and it has been great to see another exciting weekend of action with Kaizer Chiefs taken so close by the minnows of Acornbush United.
The words of Ari Efstathiou after the KwaDukuza game sum up our continuing frustrations. “It was very upsetting because we lost out on a wonderful chance. We lost also the opportunity to keep momentum going. We will now have weeks when we do not play and have to sit idly by while other team are competing. It was a big blow for us”.
Hopefully the playing staff have not been too idle this week as they approach a fixture that suddenly seems to have become massive. Every week we seem to be describing games as ‘must-win’, but the fact that we don’t win these games just cranks the pressure up and makes the next fixture even more of a must-win. When the players step out against Highlands Park on Wednesday night it will be exactly 112 days since they last won a competitive game. That is virtually one-third of a calendar year. A long, long time for a side to go without winning a game during a season. There has been a marked change in the tone of Stanley Menzo’s comments to the press in recent weeks. Just a few weeks ago he was certain that victory would soon arrive after the unfortunate home draw with Free State Stars. Last week for the first time he admitted he was worried after the defeat in Martizburg. Defeat on Wednesday and I cannot image what he would have left to say.
The final home games of the season (Highlands Park, Baroka, Platinum Stars and Bloemfontein Celtic) are going to determine our fate. Three wins and avoiding defeat to the two sides currently in the bottom two places and the club should be safe for another season. When and if that is achieved we can look back at another bottom half finish and try and analyse what is going wrong. If you picked up the Cape Argus this weekend you will have seen Rodney Reiners describe AjaxCT as SA’s Arsenal. There is surely some truth in his opinion. A mental fragility, lack of ruthlessness despite controlling possession, an ineffective transfer policy leading to too much reliance on home grown players – all of these are issues that Arsenal never seem to address, but AjaxCT may also need to consider when they look back on this season. One thing Rodney did not mention in his article when he compared AjaxCT to Arsenal was the proud relegation record of the EPL club. There are no English clubs currently in existence that have never been relegated from the country’s top division, but Arsenal are the team with the longest run since they were last relegated (in 1912-13). We must hope that this immunity against relegation is something else we have in common. As Moroka Swallows and Santos are now showing us, the alternative is too terrible to contemplate.